Third Sunday after Trinity 16.6.13 Luke 7.36-8.3

9 06 2013

Reverse Hospitality

The events at the home of the Simon the Pharisee show what happens when Jesus encounters human vulnerability and fragility. When they are owned they are healed. When they are not, they are exposed. In both cases God’s transforming love is shown.

Luke 7.36-8.3

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.’ 40Jesus spoke up and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Teacher,’ he replied, ‘speak.’ 41‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’ 43Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ 44Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ 48Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ 49But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ 50And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

8Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.


To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. What does it mean (v39) that ‘she was a sinner’?
  2. What sort of forgiveness is given here?
  3. What do the first three verses of chapter 8 add to this reading?

Heart Questions

  1. What is your emotional response to the anointing?
  2. What is the tone of the relationship between Jesus and Simon the Pharisee?
  3. How did the woman feel in the three phases of the story?

Hand Questions

  1. Great things can happen when there is hospitality: how can you be more hospitable?
  2. How can you sow greater generosity of spirit?
  3. Is there any way you can help release someone from the burden of their sins?


These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.

Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity 7.10.12 Mark 10.2-16

30 09 2012
Mark 10.2-16
Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ 3He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ 4They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.’ 5But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” 7“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

1. Why did the Pharisees ask that question? What was their motive?

2. Why did the disciples repeat it later? What was their motive? What does the second answer add to the first?

3. Why would the disciples think it was appropriate to stop the children coming to Jesus?

4. What does it mean to ‘receive the kingdom of God as a little child’? How does that challenge us today?

Please let me know what you think of this new approach.

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity 2.9.12 Mark 7. 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

28 08 2012

Hypocrisy Guilt

We are back in Mark’s gospel. As today’s reading is an edited version of a passage I am showing the verses which the lectionary does not include in italics below. Just so that you can see what the congregation are missing.

Mark 7. 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, 2they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ 6He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
“This people honours me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”
8You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’9 Then he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10For Moses said, “Honour your father and your mother”; and, “Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.” 11But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, “Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban” (that is, an offering to God)— 12then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.’14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’

17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18He said to them, ‘Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20And he said, ‘It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’

Reflections and Questions

‘gathered round Jesus’ v 1

It’s the scribes and Pharisees who ‘gather round’.  And the words suggest a kind of intimacy, or at least real proximity.

How do you picture this scene?  What sort of intermingling to you imagine between the scribes, the Pharisees and the disciples? Might they have been sharing food, for instance?

‘they noticed’  v2

What a lot is revealed about us by what we notice – and what we fail to notice!

Might it be possible to recast this story in terms not of how people eat but what they look at, listen to or otherwise attend to?

‘you hypocrites’ v6

Jesus is not in word-mincing mood. He never is. ‘You are play-acting’ he shouts.

Hypocrisy is a real danger for anyone trying to be faithful to a tradition. And in today’s world, which prizes ‘authenticity’ so highly, many people have what you might call ‘hypocrisy guilt’. How might a good sermon both prompt, and minister to, hypocrisy guilt?

Edited verses

If you had been responsible for the Sunday lectionary, how would you have edited this passage?